Becoming the Redwoods - Chelsea Bryant

After a hotel breakfast of coffee and bread, I’m driving moody passages through vineyards, past technicolor signs straight out of the 70’s: the Texaco on my right flashes a psychedelic salute to disco and tube socks and I am free. This northernmost slice of California is my Avalon and I’ve come to pray in the cathedral of oxygen and sap. The mist lifts and I’m on the 1, enraptured by pacific coniferous forest, the lupine and blue blossom. I’m homesick for the coastal Redwoods in the way I am homesick for myself, though I have only lived elsewhere, always elsewhere. Here, in Northern California, I see my golden haired children, my Cliff May home, the wooden deck, ceramics, the garden. I envision this finest adaptation of my future self amidst the manzanita and she feels at once inevitable and inconceivable, a preoccupied apparition tending soil and history and longing. Time is a cosmic joke and we’re all still waiting for the punchline, gripping ghosts of birthday parties and costume chests, reminiscing about stitches and family pets and how we dreamt of being beautiful when we grew up. We practice manifestation and affirm the natural elegance of our future selves but here in these trees, time is elastic, unfolding in spirals. Here, I am 12 years old, 34, and 97. I’m meadowfoam and bush anemone and I’m home. Technically, I’m a product of poor folk in the South but still, these old growth forests evoke patinated memories, blue-gold and reverent, a long departed grandfather’s butter-rich voice and pipe smoke on the front porch. The membrane of the landscape is so permeated with story that I feel it everywhere, hair follicles, muscle, my teeth. The veil is rice paper, an origami wren, and I am everywhere and nowhere at once. The Avenue of the Giants is just ahead, thirty miles of shameless grandeur, Redwoods so old and tall and venerated, they feel mythological. Their roots form massive networks of interwoven arteries like party lines and rib cages, holding and healing and feeding, inviting each other for supper and filling the forest with something golden and warm. I am lost to this graceful portrait of ancient earth, the faultless design of the Mother. I want the green to stain my skin like a ring around my finger. Soon, I stop the car and collect fallen needles for an oil I’ll blend when I return home. I’ll bless and macerate and steep for many moons: flower, strawberry, buck, and sturgeon. Every few days, I’ll take the jar from the kitchen cupboard and whisper a spell. I’ll anoint and commune and honor, harnessing the medicine of the Redwoods. Tomorrow, I drive back down the coast toward San Francisco. The road begs for Dylan, the Stones, Joni, and I oblige. I’ll stop in Point Reyes for lunch, my favorite grilled cheese and tomato soup and here she is, the apparition, sunlit in beams of color and fog, wearing denim and cotton and fresh constellations on her face. She holds a little girl with familiar hooded eyes, our same olive skin, and a face that won't stay clean. I’m in the Redwoods and I am lost to the wild pulse of remembrance and prayer, the great continuum: the timelessness of existence.

 

Chelsea Bryant is a queer writer, folk herbalist, and multi-dimensional artist currently based in Bellingham, Washington. Her recent work is forthcoming in Olney Magazine.

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